Backtracking: In Our Times: December 1979 locally was a ‘building’ month of several types

FILE Contractor Timothy Wilsey, seen on Dec. 4, 1979, works on the foundation for Oneonta’s Public Safety Building.


If you could place a general theme on our local life and times during December 1979, it would be “building,” but not always just for physical structures.


Oneonta’s sidewalk supervisors were busy once again on Dec. 4, observing contractor Timothy Wilsey, digging the foundation for the new building at the corner of Main and Market streets, to be the new home of the police and fire departments, and city court.

As The Daily Star of Dec. 5 reported, “The Oneonta Common Council Tuesday accepted bids for the second construction phase of the public safety building despite a 25-percent increase in costs.

“City Engineer Richard Olton told the council the most expedient option the city had was to accept the bids.” In 1978 the cost for phase two was set at $912,000, but a year later the same bids came at a cost of $1.2 million. Council accepted it and awarded work to a number of different contractors.


“Sharon Springs school officials have always been fairly content with the athletic fields behind the school buildings,” it was reported in the Star of Dec. 6.

“But a group of furry engineers who arrived on the scene recently had other plans. The thought the athletic field would serve a finer purpose as a swimming pool.

“‘What’s happened is half a dozen beavers have gotten in there and built a few dams,’ said School Superintendent Henry Grisham. ‘Now we have a wet spot — a swampy area.’

“The recent arrival of six flat-tailed, furry brown beavers has spelled problems for homeowners near the athletic field who have also had problems with flooding.”

The school district had received permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to “trap out” the beavers and close the colony.

Grisham said that there were already a dozen guys “champing at the bit to get in there and trap them.”


“When Dennis Van Deusen walked out on the Oneonta High School gym floor in front of almost a thousand of his school mates,” The Star said on Dec. 8, “they greeted him with a roar of cheers and applause. After that, the uncertainties and mistakes didn’t matter.

“Van Deusen, a high school junior, is Oneonta’s first male cheerleader — if not the first male Oneonta cheerleader ever, at least the first in many years.”

Cheerleader adviser Madolyn Palmer said he had eight days of practice beforehand. Van Deusen said he didn’t feel bad about not knowing the moves just yet.

“They were cheering for me and I know they didn’t care if I messed up,” he said.

While teachers were saying, “He’s got a lot of guts,” he shrugged it off and said, “I’ve got a lot of friends.”


We’ve been separating trash for years now, and a new environmentally conscious routine was in its infancy.

“The city of Oneonta took the first step Tuesday towards setting up a glass recycling center for the greater Oneonta area,” The Star reported on Dec. 19.

“The Common Council voted last night to sign an agreement with the Association for Retarded Citizens to operate the glass center.

“Alex Shields from the ARC presented the council with a detailed plan to operate the recycling center.”

The city and town were set to share the expenses of setting up and running the center with the ARC and had put funds into their 1980 budgets. The city had already leased land from the D&H Railroad for the building.

This weekend: Our life and times locally in December 1929.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Tuesday columns address local history 1950 and later.  If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at His website is His columns can be found at

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Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at

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